Complete Guide to Buying a K Color Diamond

Written by: Benjamin Khordipour, Jewelry and Gemology Expert
March 5, 2024 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

When purchasing a diamond, one major factor that gets taken into consideration is color. In this article, let’s discuss one of the most misunderstood colors; the K color diamond. Drawing from our extensive experience and research detailed in our book on diamonds, we will uncover and share essential insights about the K-colored diamond.

What is a K Colored Diamond?

Round brilliant cut K color diamond on black textured background

A K-colored diamond is a natural diamond with a yellowish tint that falls between J and L on the diamond color scale. A K color diamond will typically show a yellowish hue that will be easy to spot as you bring the diamond close to your eye.

For reference, the color scale against which all diamonds are graded runs from D to Z. The reason there are no A-C grades is historical and pre-dates the official GIA scale used today. So, a K colored diamond is actually higher on the spectrum than you would expect if you assume the color scale starts from A.

How Does Diamond Color Scale Work?

Diamond color scale  highlighting K color

Prior to the 1940s, several scales were in use to grade diamonds on their color. There were scales that used Roman numerals, words like “water” and “river”, and one which used A, B, and C. This made things very confusing as dealers had to know how each scale worked based on where in the world they were. Even more confusing was how the alphabetical scale used A, AA, AAA etc for increasing quality.

To cut ties with the old ways completely, GIA started the scale we know today at D. Now, this is the de-facto scale used around the world by all diamond dealers and jewelers. Click here to learn how to read a GIA certificate.

To most of us, a D color diamond is just about impossible to differentiate from a J color diamond. This is a key reason why an appraisal certificate from a recognized body is essential when buying a diamond. Without it, you’d have no reliable way of knowing what the color actually was.

What Makes A Diamond White?

Raw Diamond with Reflection

This is a trick question. Diamonds are naturally white, and the question is what makes certain diamonds appear a color other than pure white.

Traces of other elements are what cause otherwise white diamonds to be yellow, brown, and even red or blue.

In the most common non-white color of yellow, nitrogen is responsible for the color being present. Nitrogen, whilst being the most abundant element in the atmosphere, isn’t particularly common in the earth’s crust. This makes it a little surprising that Nitrogen is the element most commonly found in diamonds, after carbon.

By the time we get to K on the color scale, the yellow tint is starting to become more pronounced. Based on this, many would think that anything below J would be discarded and considered unsuitable for fine jewelry. But you’d be wrong to write off K color stones quite so easily.

How Yellow is a K Color Diamond?

chart depicting diamond color categories from D-Z

As we’ve mentioned above, it’s unlikely that you or I would be able to see much yellow color in a K color diamond unless, perhaps, we had a colorless diamond sitting beside it for comparison.  

On the old color scales, K was the equivalent of what was called “Tinted White”, as opposed to the next grade of “Tinted Color”. This indicates that K belongs more to the top end of the scale than to the bottom.

When set with platinum or white gold, the yellow tint in a K color diamond may start to become noticeable. However, this would still require close examination. With the usual viewing distance that you’d expect for an engagement ring (about 15 inches or so), any observer would be hard-pressed to see anything but a colorless diamond.

Conversely, in a yellow-gold setting, the slight warmth of the K color would be exaggerated. This versatility makes a K-color stone one of the most versatile there is.

J Color vs K Color

j vs k color cushion cut diamond

Deciding between getting a J color or a K color is a much more common question than you would believe. And it’s also a very hard question to answer objectively.

Here is a list of things to consider so that you can answer the question by yourself:

  • The difference in yellow-ish color from a J to a K diamond is generally not so noticeable (especially if the K color is an antique diamond)
  • The price difference is quite noticeable, especially in diamonds larger than 2 carats.
  • J Color diamonds are a little easier to sell and are more desirable (and rarer)
  • Many feel that once a diamond already has a little bit of color (j color), it doesn’t really matter to have a little more in K color.
  • J and K are in two different color brackets on the color-scale chart.

Important Note: Please note that some diamonds will get a certification of j/k color (or jk color or j-k color). This means that the certifier felt that the diamond fell somewhere between both colors.

Understanding Antique K Color Diamonds

graph comparing antique k color diamond to modern round brilliant cut

Antique diamonds are becoming harder to find, but those that do survive, though, have a couple of distinct advantages over a modern cut diamond. This is especially true of those “officially classed as K color”.

Antique diamonds have something that modern stones will never have, which provides a big advantage in terms of color.

Diamond grading is always done at 10x magnification, which makes seeing inclusions, flaws, and color tints much easier. With antique cuts like old mine and old European, the cut itself is a huge help to the apparent color.

14090 1.16-carat Old European cut diamond engagement ring with leaf shaped accents on abstract background
1.16-Carat Old European Cut Cairns Ring from Estate Diamond Jewelry. SKU 14090

Although classed as K color, most antique diamonds will actually present themselves quite differently from a top-view angle. Many K color antique diamonds compare favorably to a modern J or even I color stone.

The old cuts somehow mask any tint at this level, making them appear much whiter than a 10x loupe examination would establish.

How Much Does a K Color Cost?

So, if a K color antique diamond looks like a J-color, for example, is it such a big deal? Well, we’ve already said that the difference between J and K colors is very difficult for the naked eye to see, but it is still important.

The reason it is important is very simple. Cost.

Whereas a J color diamond will be around half the price of a D color with all other things being equal, similarly, a K diamond may be as much as 20-30% lower in price than a J color.

J color vs K color diamond comparison graph
Reflects market pricing as of 2024.

Most jewelers will consider the color K to be the start of the tinted diamonds when really it could also be classified as the end of the colorless. When we consider the added benefits of the antique cuts in hiding color, the financial advantage becomes even more pronounced.

To get a better idea about how much a K-color diamond costs, let’s take an example of a stone where all other factors are the same (cut and clarity). For this table, we’re using a VS2 excellent cut round brilliant diamond. Bear in mind that the pricing below reflects market pricing as of 2024. To get the best rates, contact us at Estate Diamond Jewelry for exclusive diamond pricing.

Carat WeightPrice
.50 Carat$750
1 Carat$3,700
2 Carat$14,600
3 Carat$35,000
4 Carat$58,000
5 Carat$90,000
6 Carat$108,000

Are K Color Diamonds Good?

K color old European cut diamond vintage engagement ring with baguette shaped accents 13452
3.80-carat Bayside Ring from Estate Diamond Jewelry. SKU 13452

The short answer is that k color diamonds will be good for most people.

If you use the information above next time you’re shopping for a diamond or a finished ring, you can grab yourself a real bargain by refusing to be seduced by letters. Think “antique” and “K” when shopping, and you’ll likely end up with a larger and better quality stone than you may have initially imagined.

If you have doubts, ask to see both J and K colors side by side. We doubt you’ll be able to tell the difference, especially if the K is an old mine or an old European cut.

D color diamonds are truly beautiful things, but there’s a reason why they are out of reach for many of us. Being a bit savvier about what colors down the scale really mean will make a difference.

Click here to browse our collection of K-color diamond rings and jewelry.

Best Cuts for a K Color Diamond

5 platinum set vintage diamond engagement rings

As we noted earlier, certain cuts will emphasize the yellow tint in a K color diamond, whereas others will camouflage it. As a general rule, the more faceted the stone, the better job it’ll do at masking the yellowed tint. These are our favorite cuts to get the whitest appearance from your K-color diamond.

  • Old European Cut – We’ve already discussed how antique cuts can make a K color diamond appear whiter. The old European cut (and old mine cut diamond) is the predecessor to today’s modern brilliant cut diamond. It would make a great choice for a K color diamond because it can easily pass for a higher-grade diamond such as a J color. You can view our collection of old European cut diamond engagement rings here.
  • Round Brilliant Cut – Arguably the most popular diamond shape of all time, the modern round brilliant cut is another great choice if you’re going for a k color diamond. The multiple facets help to mask some of the yellow tint, making the diamond appear whiter and brighter than it’s color grade.
  • Cushion Cut – Another multi-faceted cut, cushion cuts can range from square to rectangular shaped and create a stunning “crushed ice” effect when you look at them in the light. This cut is one of our all time favorite diamond shapes and will also work brilliantly with a k color diamond. Find our extensive selection of vintage cushion cut diamond engagement rings here.
  • Princess Cut – One of the more unique styles on our list, the Princess cut is great if you want a multi-faceted diamond with a more modern flair. It still gives a brilliant effect that will also work well to minimize yellow tints and would be a great choice for a k color stone.

How to Choose a K Color Diamond

13247 2.14 carat K color old European cut diamond ring on abstract background
2.14-Carat Park End Ring from Estate Diamond Jewelry.

If you’re choosing a setting for your K color diamond, here’s a few thing to consider.

1. Best Metals for a K Color Diamond

First is a your choice of metals. Because K color diamonds can have a yellowish tint, we recommend sticking to white gold or platinum settings which will give an overall brighter effect and make the diamond appear whiter. In addition, platinum always has an added advantage in that it allows for better craftsmanship, and provides a more durable setting than gold.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t use a yellow gold setting with a K color diamond. There are those that maintain that a yellow or rose gold can camouflage the yellowness of the stone. Keep in mind though, that the overall tone of your ring will be a warmer, more classic look, which is great if that’s what you’re going for.

2. Best Setting for a K Color Diamond

2 carat bezel set old European diamond ring 14041
2-carat Scottsboro Ring from Estate Diamond Jewelry. SKU 14041

Another point to think about is the actual setting. As a general rule, a bezel setting is a better choice for a K color diamond than a pronged one. The reason is that the yellowness in the diamond will usually be most visible from the sides of the stone. In a bezel setting, the side of the stone is hidden, as opposed to a pronged setting where you can view the diamond from all sides.

That being said, an antique cut K color diamond will usually work even with a pronged setting, so if you specifically like the look of prongs, try to source an antique cut diamond for your ring. Our jewelers would be happy to help you find the perfect antique stone for you.

3. Best Accent Stones for a K Color Diamond

A great way to make your K color diamond appear brighter and less yellow is by properly utilizing the accent or side stones. Using lower color-grade diamonds, such as L color, to accent the center stone, will help it appear brighter and whiter by contrast.

Are K Color Diamonds Good for an Engagement Ring

K Color Diamond Engagement Ring in EDJ Box

In short, yes. K color diamonds make a fantastic choice for an engagement ring, and here’s why.

Many people prefer to get the largest stone they can within their budget. A large center diamond will usually look more impressive and make a bigger statement, which is great for a lifetime investment piece, like an engagement ring.

Unless you have an unlimited budget, usually getting a larger carat size means compromising on either clarity or color. With a larger diamond, it’s almost always a better choice to go for a lesser-grade color and higher-grade clarity. The reason for this is that the larger the stone, the more noticeable the inclusions become. This is especially true if we’re talking about a step-cut diamond like an emerald or Ascher cut, where there are less facets to hide the inclusions.

This is why a K color diamond makes an excellent choice for an engagement ring. Choosing a K color diamond will allow you to get a larger stone with great clarity, while still maintaining a reasonably bright color.

Pro Tip: Try to go for a VS2 clarity grade or higher when purchasing a K color diamond.

Are K Colored Diamonds Worth Buying

loose round brilliant diamond in a black box against GIA certificate

In our opinion, absolutely. K-Color diamonds offer great value and good quality at a much lower price than higher-grade stones. Specifically because K-color is right on the border of two color categories, the price difference is usually greater than the actual difference in quality and appearance. It’s one of our top recommendations and we think K-color is probably some of the best value you can get in a diamond due to its price to quality ratio.

Note: Taking into account what we said above, if your budget allows for it, a J-color diamond does have some advantages over a K-color. Read more about J-color diamonds in our expert guide if you’re trying to determine which is the best choice for you.

Shop K Color Diamonds

Feel free to browse our collection of K-color diamond rings. If you want to see our full collection, contact us using the form below.

Talk to a Diamond Expert

Afshin and Benjamin in Showroom with Rackcard and Estate Jewelry

Have questions about purchasing a K color diamond ring? Or do you have a specific vision in mind for your engagement ring that you’d like help to create? Message one of our expert jewelers, and we’ll help you along the process of finding the perfect piece!